Sandhill Cranes

For the past month I've been reading reports by birders in the area that there have been 6 Sandhill Cranes at Squaw Creek NWR.  I've looked for them at each visit in the past month, but I have been unsuccessful....until today!  We made a quick run through the route and happened to spot the small group lingering near the edge of a pool in the Mallard Marsh area of the refuge.  I was so excited (and a little relieved!)  I was beginning to doubt I would ever see these birds.  I took a few pictures of the Cranes just to prove that I saw them (and to remember the moment!).  Hopefully someday I will be close enough to take a picture hat shows more than a fuzzy Crane shape. :)

Another bird that had been reported at SCNWR was a Tundra swan.  Lucky for me I also saw this bird today!  There were three huddled together amongst several Trumpeter swans.  It was wonderful to see the yellow spot in front of the eye and see the size differences between the two swans.  At first I scanned the pool and thought all the swans were Trumpeter swans.  On a second look I realized the three swans were smaller than the others.  A closer inspection revealed the yellow spot near the eye above the bill.  Woo Hoo!  A Lifer! 

While looking at all the Trumpeter Swans we noticed one of them was banded.  It was a little tough to read the numbers on the red band, but I think it is 3K(?)6.  I'm sure it has been reported many times before, but I will go ahead and report it again.  I'm interested in finding out where it is from and where it has been. 


Digiscoping Experiments

Since I got my scope (!!) I've been trying to figure out a way to attach my digital camera to the eyepiece of the scope without spending money on an adapter.  I spent several hours online and finally decided to replicate this adapter.  I made it out of an old peanut butter jar & a lot of duct tape.  I actually had a lot of fun making it and plan on making a new & improved one soon.  

To test out my new set up my mom and I visited Squaw Creek NWR earlier this week.  Although it was cold, wet, and snowy, we managed to see some wonderful birds. 

Mom and I spotted a traveling flock of birds working a group of trees near the entrance to the refuge.  Since I was eager to start trying out my scope/camera set up, I stopped the car and got everything set up.  I managed to get a series of photos of a cooperative Eastern Bluebird sitting 30-35 feet away on a branch.  Oddly, the first picture I took of that Eastern Bluebird probably ended up being the best picture of the day. I had never appreciated how quickly some of those little birds move before.  I also snapped a picture of a Carolina Wren.  Unfortunately he was more interested in buzzing at the intruding birds than sitting still for me to take a photo. I just got one picture of the quick moving little bugger!

On our tour of the rest of the refuge we saw thousands of waterfowl.  Things seemed to work pretty well, but I'm going to have to practice A LOT.  I also will have to figure out the best mode/program/setting to keep my camera on.  That means I'll have to go out and practicve again.  Woo Hoo!!


Fun with Loons

This morning I headed out to Smithville Lake to try out my new scope.  I've been to Smithville Lake many times before and have had variable success.  Either it's incredibly windy and I can't hold  my binoculars still enough to ID the tiny dots floating in the middle of the lake OR the tiny dots are just too far away! 

Today it was drizzly and overcast, but overall it wasn't a bad day for birding.  Naturally I couldn't make out any of the tiny dots congregating in the middle of the lake, but I was able to pick out several (5-6) Common Loons.  They floated about happily and occasionally shook off the extra drizzle.  I was quite content sitting in my car with my scope watching the group mill about.  Sadly, after I got home I read online that a fellow birder had seen several Pacific Loons on the lake today.  Unfortunately I did not happen to see any of them.  Oh well!  I even tried my hand at digiscoping some pictures.  I know they're pretty basic, but I welcome all suggestions for improvevment.

Ever since getting my lovely scope, I've been scouring websites trying to gather as much information I can about digiscoping.  Today I was just holding my Canon up to the eyepiece of the scope which I'm sure accounts for a fair amount of blur, but I'd love to figure out a way to position my camera at the eyepiece without spending extra money on a specifically designed digiscoping adapter.  Perhaps that will be my next project!

The picture about is my favorite picture of the day.  The face just cracks me up!


New Job = Less time for Birding

This past week I have started a new job.  I'm really enjoying the job so far.  However I don't have much time in the day left over for birding because it is already dark when I get home.  Boo!  I do get a good chance to see some hawks on my drive to work in the morning.  I hope I get better at identifying them!

There has been some activity at our feeder lately.  At least I've been able to enjoy some birds.


Growing Life List

Tonight I sorted through my past few birding trips and checked off recent life birds on my ABA list.  Although I do get incredibly excited when I see a new bird while out & about, my primary motivation on all my birding trips is to observe and watch the birds go about their activities. I was astonished to count up my bird list tally.  162!!!!  I couldn't (& still can't!) believe it....especially since I just started in May. 

Woot! Woot! I've enjoyed each bird I've seen so far and look forward to seeing as many more as I can


New Scope!

Last Thursday I splurged and got myself a spotting scope! Friday morning (super early!) I headed out to Squaw Creek NWR and spent the entire day marveling at the beautiful views I was getting through my new scope. Ahh! It was glorious! To add to my elation, I saw four new life birds! The first was a Rusty Blackbird. There was a group working the marsh area at the entrance of the park. It was so nice to be able to see those beautiful pale eyes.

Once I panned out past the Rusty Blackbirds along the shore I spotted several Ring-necked Ducks. Whoo Hooo! Second life bird for the day! In the same pool were hundreds of Mallards, Northern Shovelers, and Pintails. The more I look at them, the more I'm struck by the impressive coloring of Ducks.

My third life bird was a Hooded Merganser. I spotted a group of 5-7 far off in the distance with my binoculars bobbing and diving near a huge flock (1000+) of Snow Geese, but was unable to see them through my scope. Something startled the Snow Geese and caused them to rise up swirling in the sky. Unfortunately the Hooded Mergansers were lost in the chaos.

My fourth life bird was an American Avocet. A group of five were huddled along the shore amongst the Snow Geese and Ducks. Eventually the surrounding Ducks and Snow Geese got to be too bothersome for the Avocets. I held my breath as they started spreading their wings to fly to a new spot. Lucky me! They moved closer and I was able to get some pictures of them. I couldn't have been happier.

Squaw Creek was loaded with birds of prey on Friday. Unfortunately I am terrible at identifying this group. I think I'll need the assistance of experienced birders to help me identify these birds. I did spot several Immature Bald Eagles (along with several mature birds), a Northern Harrier, and the ever-present Red-Tailed Hawk.

I ran into a photographer (Jim) who was out capturing some wonderful images of the available birds. You should check out his photos. They are excellent!

By far this was my favorite day of birding.It was absolutely wonderful!